The Vancouver Canucks are locked into a battle to hold onto one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference. The team is tied with the Edmonton Oilers with 44 points for the final playoff spot and much of the team’s success has fallen on starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom.
The 29-year-old netminder has been solid with a 13-11-3 record with a 2.63 GAA and an impressive .919 save percentage and has been critical in stealing victories for a team desperate to make the playoffs. The Canucks have a challenge approaching them this summer as the goalie hits unrestricted free agent this summer. With backup Thatcher Demko posting an inconsistent season and salary cap concerns, the team has made it clear that locking up Markstrom to a long-term deal is a priority for the team.
NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz looks at what it might cost to sign Markstrom, finding several comparison goaltenders, pointing to Ottawa’s Craig Anderson and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard. Both goalies, when they signed their long-term deals years ago, were comparable players to Markstrom, who has gone from middling prospect, to solid backup, to impressive starter. If you take fast forward their deals to the current salary cap structure, it would come out somewhere between $5-6MM, something the team should be able to afford.
- The Athletic’s Craig Morgan (subscription required) writes that the Arizona Coyotes are close to getting back a key defenseman. Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has been out since Oct. 12 after breaking his left fibula on a slapshot from Colorado’s Erik Johnson, worked out on his own Friday, but is expected to return to practice soon, according to head coach Rick Tocchet. Hjalmarsson was projected to miss 10-12 weeks with the injury and it has now been 11 weeks, suggesting his return is close.
- Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid is considered to be one of the fastest skaters in the NHL, but the skilled forward lost to teammate Joakim Nygard in the Faster Skater competition at the Oilers Skills Competition Sunday, the team announced. Nygard, signed out of the SHL during the offseason, skated 14.014, beating McDavid, by three one-hundredths of a second, who finished with a 14.041. Nygard has served most of his time in the bottom-six. He has two goals and six points in 24 games this year.